US dollar overvalued from medium-term view: IMF

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that the US dollar was "somewhat" overvalued and greater currency flexibility in some countries will be needed to support the global economy.

"The US is no longer going to be the global consumer of last resort and therefore other countries, especially those with current account surpluses, will need to take up the slack," IMF Western Hemisphere Department Deputy Director David Robinson told reporters.

"With our assessment that the dollar is now somewhat overvalued from a medium-term perspective, I emphasize medium term, this will also need to be accompanied by greater exchange rate flexibility and appreciation elsewhere," he said.


West Midlands businesses hail decision to hold interest

Business leaders in the region have appluaded the Monetary Policy Committee’s decision to hold interest rates at 0.5 per cent despite inflationary pressures.

Rate-setters on the MPC also left their £200 billion programme to pump money into the economy unchanged following their two-day meeting.

The decision comes after the first policy split on the MPC since November was seen last month when Andrew Sentance voted to hike rates to tackle inflation, currently above the Bank’s 2 per cent target at 3.4 per cent.

But fellow committee members have warned it is too early to act, with the recovery still uncertain and Chancellor George Osborne’s savage Budget squeeze to slash the deficit likely to slow the economy.

Simon Topman, Chairman of West Midlands Chambers of Commerce, said: “It’s vital now for the Bank of England to continue to hold their nerve, particularly now that the Coalition Government has set out how it intends to deal with the debt crisis.”

Ronnie Bowker, Ernst & Young’s senior partner in Birmingham, said: “Although inflation remains higher than the Bank of England’s target, some of the pressures which have brought this about – most notably rising oil prices and the weakness of sterling – have eased in recent weeks.

“Before any more MPC hawks take to the air, the committee should hold steady and evaluate the full extent of public sector cuts on the UK economy.”

Mark Smith, regional chairman at PricewaterhouseCoopers in the Midlands, added: “While concerns over inflation are mounting in some quarters, there is still an overwhelming sense that it is premature to raise rates.

"Policymakers are concerned about unsettling economic growth and will want to assess the impact of the austerity measures announced in last month’s emergency budget before adjusting policy.

"This should make for some interesting debate at coming committee meetings, though we’re still unlikely to see rates move off their current historic lows in the short term.”

Mike Dell, President of Black Country Chamber of Commerce said: “It is imperative that the Monetary Policy Committee takes the views of small business into consideration and do not increase interest rates before the end of 2010; an increase in rates could hinder our chances of a sustainable recovery.”

Business leaders in Coventry and Warwickshire also felt the Bank of England’s decision to keep interest rates at 0.5 per cent was ‘the right choice’.

Louise Bennett, the chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said keeping a low rate was essential in helping the economy to recover.

She said: “The Bank of England has made the right choice by holding interest rates because although inflation is above two per cent, increasing the rate at this time would stifle the recovery.

“The Chamber of Commerce has been strongly urging the Bank to maintain this course and we hope this continues in the near future.

“A low rate is key to facilitating growth and we applaud the Bank for taking the right decision.”


Dunstone explains Digital Act challenge

160x120 broadband generic01
Charles Dunstone, chief executive of TalkTalk-owner The Carphone Warehouse, has said that the firm's joint legal challenge with BT against the Digital Economy Act is intended to avoid wasting money on an "unworkable" anti-piracy solution.

Today, the two ISPs lodged papers at the High Court asking for a judicial review of the act, which included new powers to disconnect persistent illegal filesharers.

Writing on the TalkTalk blog, Dunstone expressed his belief that the act was rushed through in the 'wash-up' period before parliament was dissolved without its impact being "properly scrutinised".

He also said that the measures to prevent illegal filesharing have the potential to "harm the basic rights and freedoms of citizens".

"In particular, we are concerned that obligations imposed by the act may not be compatible with important European rules that are designed to ensure that national laws protect users' privacy, restrict the role of ISPs in policing the internet and maintain a single market", said Dunstone.

"As a result, we're seeking clarity from the court before we and other industry players are asked to implement the act. We want to avoid a situation where we invest tens of millions of pounds in new systems and processes only to find that the act is unenforceable and the money wasted."

TalkTalk has led a sustained campaign against the government's approach to tackling illegal filesharing on grounds that it is "unfair" and, at worst, "unworkable".

The ISP believes that the measures will result in innocent web users being targeted as criminals and allow those who hack other people's connections to continue illicitly accessing copyrighted material without fear of rebuke.

As the act only applies to ISPs with more than 400,000 customers, TalkTalk is also concerned that it could result in offenders migrating to smaller ISPs to avoid detection.

Dunstone said that TalkTalk and BT are not alone in their opposition to the measures as many sections of the public also share their concerns.

On the Your Freedom site recently launched by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to gauge the public's policy priorities, the Digital Economy Act was placed highly on a wishlist of laws to be repealed by the new coalition.

Ofcom has already issued its provisional guidelines on the anti-piracy measures, but Dunstone wants the judicial review to halt the act "as quickly as possible before lots of money is spent on [its] implementation".

However, the coalition told the BBC that there are no plans to backtrack on the anti-piracy measures laid out in the act.

"The Digital Economy Act sets out to protect our creative economy from the continued threat of online copyright infringement, which industry estimates costs the creative industries, including creators, £400m per year," it said.

"We believe measures are consistent with EU legislation and that there are enough safeguards in place to protect the rights of consumers and ISPs and will continue to work on implementing them."


Trio guilty of suicide bomb plot

Trio found guilty at Woolwich Crown CourtGuilty: Savant, Khan and Zaman

Three men have been found guilty of plotting to murder by becoming suicide bombers.

Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Khan and Waheed Zaman, all from east London, were convicted of conspiracy to murder by a jury at Woolwich Crown Court.

The men had been recruited in 2006 by the ringleader of what became known as the airline bomb plot.

Last year a jury cleared the trio, who will be sentenced on Monday, of knowing the target had been airlines.

They face life imprisonment.

'Martyrdom videos'

The verdicts come nearly four years after the police and MI5 smashed the largest ever terrorist plot in the UK - an investigation that cost more than £25m and led to widescale restrictions at airports.

These men were involved in a calculated and sophisticated plot to create a terrorist event of major proportions

Sue Hemming, CPSThe would-be bombers of Walthamstow

The cell's ringleaders, based in east London, had developed a homemade liquid bomb which could be disguised as a soft drink.

The head of the plot, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, had planned to target seven transatlantic airliners with a co-ordinated strike by suicide bombers he was trying to recruit from among his friends.

Ali and two other plotters were found guilty of planning of this plot after a 2009 retrial.

However, the jury at that trial cleared Savant, of Stoke Newington, Khan, of Walthamstow, and Zaman, also of Walthamstow, of being part of an airliners plot, but could not decide whether the trio were still prepared to be suicide bombers.

Prosecutors said that "martyrdom videos" recorded by the trio proved they were willing to sacrifice their lives, even if at the time of their arrest there was insufficient evidence to prove they had known what the targets would be.

In a rare move, the courts sanctioned a third trial of the trio, saying it was in the public interest to get final verdicts.

'Death and injury'

In a statement, the Crown Prosecution Service's head of counter-terrorism, Sue Hemming, said: "Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan and Waheed Zaman were actively working alongside other men on a plot to cause death and injury on a massive scale.


One of the martyrdom videos
  • Three trials involving main defendants
  • Ringleaders convicted of airliners plot after second trial
  • Eight defendants convicted of conspiracy
Verdicts explained in full

"They were cleared in the previous trial of being aware of the ultimate targets of the plot, but we say that they were committed to the principle and practice of violent jihad to the point of targeting innocent people in an attempt to further their cause.

"The charges against these men were so serious that, following two previous trials where juries could not reach verdicts, the director of public prosecutions decided that the evidence must be properly tested before a jury for a third time.

"The verdicts demonstrate that the Crown Prosecution Service was right to pursue a third trial."

Earlier trials

Abdulla Ahmed Ali, of Walthamstow, Assad Sarwar, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and Tanvir Hussain, of Leyton, east London, were found guilty of the airline bomb plot last year.

Ali had been in contact with al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and sent coded e-mails to them, keeping them up to date with his attempts to recruit bombers.

The flights he had singled out were to San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Washington, New York and Chicago.

Each departed within two-and-a-half hours of each other. The flight details were held on a memory stick which Ali was carrying when he was arrested.

Two other men, Umar Islam and Adam Khattib, were convicted on the same conspiracy to murder charge as Savant, Khan and Zaman, but not of the airliner element.

Ali's plot sparked a fundamental shift in airliner security across the Western world, with governments restricting liquids from flights.

The restrictions prompted chaos at airports but have since become part of the standard security arrangements for flights.


Armed police hunting fugitive gunman Raoul Moat left bullets in child's bedroom after search

Armed police hunting for Raoul Moat left a magazine of bullets in child's bedroom after searching a family home, it was revealed today.

A SWAT team left a clip containing 20 copper-tipped 5.56 calibre bullets - capable of piercing steel.

The armed team had raided the Newcastle home of a couple and their 11-year-old daughter after reports Moat was in hiding at their address in Kenton.

But after the parents were handcuffed and led into the street by armed police in front of neighbours, police found no trace of the fugitive and left.

They left behind a magazine containing at least 20 rounds of ammunition which were discarded in the bedroom of the couple's daughter.

Left behind: The magazine of bullets left in a house in Kenton

Left behind: The magazine of bullets left in a house in Kenton

Deadly: The magazine contained 20 copper-tipped 5.56 calibre bullets

Deadly: The magazine contained 20 copper-tipped 5.56 calibre bullets

The couple, who did not want to be named, relived the raid on their home the Kenton area of Newcastle which has been the scene of a series of similar swoops.

The 30-year-old father said: 'There were just 10 guns pointing at my face as soon as I opened the door. I'm not angry with the police - they are just doing their jobs - but why are people saying that Moat is round at our house?

'I've come down the stairs and there are about 10 guns pointing straight at me. They've left the cartridge and that's made me angry - I don't want my kid finding that.

'My daughter was at school and it's a good job she wasn't here to see what was going on.'

The mother, 26, added: 'I was told to stand in the window with my hands showing while they took out my husband and made him kneel in the street.

'I heard shouting but I didn't think anything of it. All of a sudden I realised what was happening.They were pointing guns at me and shouting. They handcuffed him and then I was led out.

'They made me give them a layout of the house and then they just went in and started looking round. We didn't even know Moat that well. We used to see him on the estate but that's as close as we got to him.

'e're told the police were phoned and told he was here - it's absolute rubbish. It was a frightening experience because they were carrying these big guns. The street has been full of people. I can't believe this has happened.'

Blunder: A policeman collects the ammunition from the house

Blunder: A policeman collects the ammunition from the house

The clear plastic magazine is branded with the words 5.56x45mm calibre - high-powered bullets used in M16 American assault rifles.

Northumbria Police were alerted to the security scare and a spokesman promised a full investigation into the matter.

'We will fully investigate the circumstances,' he said.

A neighbour who saw the swoop said: 'The dogs were on their chains outside and I heard them barking so I opened the door. There was a policeman right outside with a great big gun.

'I was terrified. He shouted at me to get back in the house. Looking out of the window I could see the police going into the house. There were about five police cars and a van, as well as dogs. They got them out of the house, I could see how frightened they looked. I felt so sorry for them."


U.S., Russia could be preparing for exchange of spy ring suspects

A Russian scientist serving a prison sentence for spying has been flown to Moscow and will be part of an exchange for the members of the alleged spy ring arrested in the U.S., his family says.

A Russian scientist serving a 15-year prison sentence on charges of spying for U. S. intelligence services says he and other Russian prisoners will be swapped in the next few days for the members of the alleged Russian spy ring recently arrested in the United States, his family said Wednesday.

Igor Sutyagin, a former researcher for the Moscow-based USA and Canada Institute think tank, was flown to Moscow from a prison camp near the Arctic Circle, where he has been serving a 15-year sentence.

The 45-year-old scientist was arrested in 1999 and spent five years in pretrial detention. In 2004, Sutyagin was found guilty of passing classified information on Russian submarines and missile systems to a British company called Alternative Future, which the investigation claimed was a CIA front.

Russian and international human rights organizations believed Sutyagin was dealing only with officially published, unclassified information and that the verdict was intended to discourage Russian scientists and intellectuals from cooperating with the West.

The scientist's mother, Svetlana Sutyagina, said in a telephone interview that after arriving at Moscow's high-security Lefortovo prison Tuesday, her son was ushered into a room where he met with a general from the Russian security services and three U.S. diplomats.

"He was told that he and nine other prisoners will be exchanged for the 10 Russians recently arrested in the United States," his mother said, adding that her son told her the list was prepared by U.S. officials. "If he agreed, Igor was told he would have to sign a document, which among other things contained a paragraph where Igor was to confess of spying, which he never did before."

"Under different circumstances my son would have never done that," Sutyagina said. "But Igor was in such a state of shock that he signed the document."

Sutyagina was allowed to meet with her son at the Lefortovo prison Wednesday morning, and he told her that he would be flown from Moscow to Vienna and from there to London, where the exchange would take place.

Sutyagina said her son also told her that the Russian general read to him a list of the nine others who would be part of the exchange, but he remembered only one of them: Sergei Stupar, a former Russian military intelligence officer who in 2006 was given a 13-year sentence for spying for Britain.

Russian intelligence services declined to comment on the family's revelations.

"There will be no comments on the situation with the people detained in the United States," Russian Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman Sergei Guskov said on the phone. "At least up to now we have nothing to say."

A U.S. embassy spokesman also declined to comment, saying he heard about it from media reports.

A hearing scheduled Wednesday in Alexandria, Va., for three of the suspected Russian spies, Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills and Mikhail Semenko, was canceled and they were ordered transported to New York, court records show.

"I can't say anything publicly about it right now," said Charles Burnham, a lawyer for Mills.

Government officials also were not commenting. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was to attend a previously scheduled White House meeting Wednesday night with National Security Advisor Jim Jones and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Some Russian observers and political commentators hurried to hail reports of an impending exchange as another sign of improvement in Russian-U.S. relations.

"On the one hand, if the deal is really in the works, that will be the Kremlin's confirmation that these people were fulfilling some special tasks in the United States in favor of Russia," said Andrei Kortunov, president of New Eurasia Foundation, a Moscow-based think tank, in a phone interview with The Times. "On the other hand, that means that both sides want to hush up the affair quickly and thus demonstrate that both Moscow and Washington are ready to leave the spy scandal behind them and continue to develop the positive trend in their relationship."

Kortunov said it would be an act of goodwill somewhat similar to the famous Rudolph Abel-Francis Gary Powers exchange in 1962.

"However this time it will have a somewhat farcical connotation," Kortunov said. "The alleged spies arrested in the United States didn't really achieve anything in terms of espionage, while Sutyagin, many human rights activists believe, was not a spy either, and his conviction was purely political."


John Prescott takes seat in House of Lords

The new peer, previously opposed to the Lords 'flunkery', justifies his move because 'there's a lot to hold the government to account for'

John Prescott new peers introduced to the House of Lords
John Prescott is introduced to the House of Lords in traditional ermine-trimmed red robe, taking on the title of Baron Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull. Photograph: PA

John Prescott, New Labour's key link to the party's old Labour roots, today became Baron Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull, despite previously saying he was opposed to becoming a peer.

This morning, before being sworn into the House of Lords, the former deputy prime minister rejected the charge of hypocrisy, and wrote on Twitter that he would use the position to hold the government to account, and as a platform to campaign for issues he believes in.

"As the last week has shown with hiking up VAT, axing child tax credits and scrapping schools, there's a lot to hold this government to account for," he wrote.

Prescott denied reports that he did not want the "flunkery and titles" of the House of Lords, despite saying as much in an interview with the Scotsman two years ago.

When the dissolution honours list that included his name was announced on 28 May he blogged: "I welcome the opportunity to continue to campaign in parliament for jobs, social justice and the environment as well as to hold this Con-Lib government to account."

Prescott was supported by Lord Dixon and Lord Grocott, his sponsoring peers, as he was sworn into the Lords. Wearing the traditional ermine-trimmed red robe, the former MP swore an oath of allegiance and signed the test roll, in the peerage ceremony that dates back to 1621.

Lord Prescott exited the house to de-robe, and is not expected to make his maiden speech today. He can now take his seat at any time.

Prescott stood down from the House of Commons at the last general election, but continues to campaign on issues such as climate change and unemployment.

He is pushing for a deal to be reached on global warming at the climate change summit to be held in Cancun, Mexico, in November; he helped negotiate the Kyoto protocol and was also involved in last year's Copenhagen conference.

The 72-year-old will continue to be an ambassador for the city of Hull, where he has lived for more than 40 years.

Prescott was the last of three Labour peers to be sworn in today.Quentin Davies, a Tory MP who defected to Labour when David Cameron became Conservative leader, and Angela Smith also accepted their place in the Lords.

The former deputy prime minister was one of over 29 new Labour peers created in a honours list that included 16 new Conservative peers and nine new Liberal Democrat peers.

Michael Howard, the former Conservative leader, Guy Black, who once head of the Press Complaints Commission and TV presenter Floella Benjamin, are among those who will also be sworn into the House of Lords.



A 38-year-old woman who died after the maroon-coloured Ford Fiesta she was a passenger in was involved in a collision on the A90 north of Finavon in Angus on Wednesday has been formally identified.
She has been named as Limi Sharmeen Mostafa of Great Western Road, Aberdeen.

The one vehicle collision happened at about 3.40 pm near to Noranbank Farm.

Emergency services were quickly at the scene but tragically Mrs Mostafa was declared dead at the scene.

Three other people, her 44-year-old husband and their two children - girls aged ten and three-years-old - were also in the vehicle. They were taken by ambulance to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee following the collision.

The man was treated for minor injuries and released. The ten year-old girl is described as being stable in hospital having sustained internal injuries and the three-year-old is serious but stable having suffered head injuries.

No other vehicles were involved in the collision, which resulted in the closure of the southbound carriageway and significant tailbacks in both directions.

Crash investigators attended and enquiries into the full set of circumstances surrounding the incident are continuing. A full report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal in due course.

Tayside Police would appeal for anyone who saw the maroon-coloured Ford Fiesta prior to the collision, or who witnessed the incident itself to contact 0300 111 2222, or speak to any officer.


Christopher Graham
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has the power to fine firms up to £500K for data breaches

ICO launches online guide to data protection

Code of Practice highlights the importance and implications of information security

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has launched an online guide aimed at helping business, charities and public bodies ensure that they manage data securely.

The Personal Information Online Code of Practice also aims to provide tips allowing consumers to make an informed choice about whether they sign up for a particular online service.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham explained that businesses need to take data security seriously in order to avoid fines and retain the trust of customers.

"A record of our online activity can reveal our most personal interests. Mislead consumers or collect information you don't need, and you are likely to diminish customer trust and face enforcement action from the ICO," he warned.

Graham also called on individuals to be more proactive in checking privacy settings, and to be careful about the details they post online.

With this in mind, the ICO has published a guide for consumers called Protecting your personal information online (PDF), providing advice on avoiding scams, being careful about disclosing information and using privacy settings effectively.

Stewart Room, a partner in the privacy and information law group at legal firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, said that the new guidance is "very welcome" and vital to ensuring that companies understand their legal obligations with regards to data.

"The new ICO guidance sets out in plain English the key principles controllers need to be aware of. Of course, it does not seek to address all of the issues but, in combination with expert legal advice, it provides a helpful route map for compliance," he said.

"Many organisations are not taking their legal obligations for security seriously enough. It is quite dispiriting to find that many still do not see security as a board-level issue."

Room also believes that the ICO needs more direct powers to compel businesses to protect data, and make the reporting of data losses mandatory.

"In my opinion, the fear of unlimited fines would have provided better incentives. Likewise, the audit power should be extended to cover all data controllers. At the moment it covers government departments only," he said.

"Finally, we need clear, mandatory breach disclosure laws. At the moment the UK position on breach disclosure is contained in regulatory guidance, which is unsatisfactory."


House prices fall again but activity levels are rising (08/07/2010)

Housing market transactions rose by 20% in June, from 52,975 in May to an estimated 63,500 in June, according to the Acadametrics House Price Index. While still down on the long-term national average, this increase in sold properties sharply reverses the drop in transactions last month.
However, house prices continued to fall in June, down 0.5% on May levels. This is mainly a result of sellers finally coming to terms with buyer demand for greater price discounts, according to the consultancy.

Dr Peter Williams, housing market specialist and Chairman of Acadametrics, commented: “The average price of a home in England & Wales is now £218,119. At this level, it is down £13,709, or 5.9%, from its peak in February 2008 of £231,828. In terms of annual price changes, the housing market appears to be divided between what is happening to higher value homes and the remainder of properties. There has been an upward movement in the prices of properties in the most affluent areas of the country, whilst the remainder of the market is experiencing relatively small changes in price, in either a positive or negative direction. However, this trend has been less marked over the last three months compared with the previous three months, with prices in the less affluent areas staging a modest recovery.”

“Given the number of policy changes that have impacted to varying degrees upon the housing market in recent months, it remains difficult to tease out what is really happening in terms of underlying trends. Confidence remains weak as does the supply of credit and the Bank of England‟s recent Financial Stability Review (June) points up the funding difficulties being faced by lenders. Acadametrics has now reported price falls over the last four months, totalling 2.4% or just over £5,250. Apart from the period March 2008 to April 2009, this is the longest running fall for some years. There has been much debate about a „double dip‟ recession in the housing market, paralleling what might happen in the wider economy. Without doubt those risks exist and the pattern of falls we report is not dissimilar so far to the early months of the last major re-adjustment. Much turns on the economy, unemployment and interest rates where the Bank has been sending ”lower for longer” messages in terms of rates, even though inflation has gathered pace (along with what happens in the USA). With the possibility of rate rises later in the year together with the scaling back of support for home owners in difficulty, we could see pressures begin to build in the market that might give further momentum to price falls.

“For the present, the outlook for the housing market remains negative. However, with continued demographic pressures (and at least 1 million first time buyers waiting to enter the market when conditions allow) and much reduced housing supply, there is a real possibility of a strong recovery in prices once conditions allow demand to become effective. So a limited dip might be followed by a sharp rise but much turns on the supply and price of mortgages. That said, it is hard to see how, despite new entrants and government pressure on lenders to increase lending, prices will surge. Whilst mortgage supply remains restricted, price competition is dampened and, given the shift to greater reliance on retail funding, mortgages will inevitably cost more anyway, providing a further dampener.”
“In conclusion, the outlook remains challenging. In the more affluent parts of the UK, the market will remain more buoyant because higher incomes mean more cash buyers/parental support for deposits and such areas will also attract more of the limited supply of mortgages. All this puts a premium on accurate and independent reporting on the housing market.”

By Andy Stern


Digital Economy Act: TalkTalk and BT mount legal challenge

BT and TalkTalk are beginning a High Court battle to get the Digital Economy Act repealed.

Charles Dunstone: TalkTalk
Charles Dunstone, chairman of TalkTalk, managed to collect over 35,000 signatures for his web campaign against the Government's internet disconnection proposals to reduce piracy. Photo: Eddie Mulholland

The two internet service providers have joined forces and filed papers with the High Court requesting a judicial review with regards to the Act, which both parties argue was rushed through into law during the final days of the previous government.

Charles Dunstone, the chief executive of Carphone Warehouse and chairman of TalkTalk, told The Telegraph in January earlier this year, that he was prepared to fight the then Government in court should the anti-piracy clauses of the Digital Economy Act become law.

He has been vociferously opposed to the Act’s measures to tackle web piracy since the publication of the Digital Britain White Paper in June 2009, saying he refused to send his customers, who were suspected file-sharers, warning letters about their supposed activities or disconnect them. Earlier this year, as a reaction to the proposals, TalkTalk launched a petition called ‘Don’t Disconnect Us’ - which collected just over 35,000 signatures by June 2010.

Dunstone told The Telegraph in January: “There is no need to pursue this letter-sending and disconnection policy, when it [the music industry and other copyright owners] can just individually prosecute people who have violated copyright rules.”

TalkTalk and BT have now come together to request a judicial review of the Act, which came into law in April 2010, saying, in a joint statement, the provisions in the law aimed at the prevention of internet piracy, “received insufficient scrutiny before being rushed through into law at the tail end of the last Parliament. That view is shared by many MPs of all parties, who also have concerns about the legislative process that was followed and the lack of a normal parliamentary timetable”.

The Digital Economy Bill was processed speedily as it was pushed through in the politics wash-up process - which takes place between an election being called and Parliament being dissolved. It was passed by 189 votes to 47, after two hours of debated and managed to keep the majority of its original clauses intact.

The Act seeks to curb online piracy, among several other major policies, all with the aim of stimulating the UK’s digital economy. It caused ripples across the technology world, most notably because of its proposals regarding the suspension of repeat filesharers’ internet connections and also themeasures (formerly contained within clause 18) that would allow politicians to block pirate websites without primary legislation. The previous government had removed this proposed clause during the Bill’s Parliamentary readings, but then replaced it with a different amendment which will indeed allow the Secretary of State for Business to block any site which “the court is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright".

The particular concerns that both companies share is that the anti-piracy measures that the Act prescribes, are not in keeping with European rules on ISPs policing the internet and protecting users’ privacy.

In a joint statement the companies said: “If clarity is not gained at this stage then BT, TalkTalk and other industry players may end up investing tens of millions of pounds in new systems and processes only to find later that the Act is unenforceable and the money is wasted.”

A spokesman from the Government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said: “The Digital Economy Act sets out to protect our creative economy from the continued threat of online copyright infringement, which industry estimates costs the creative industries, including creators, £400m per year. We believe measures are consistent with EU legislation and that there are enough safeguards in place to protect the rights of consumers and ISPs and will continue to work on implementing them."

In contrast, Sky and Virgin, the other two major British ISPs, welcomed the provisions in the Act and have said they are respectively committed to helping curb piracy, through the measures stated in the Act. The Code of Practice is still being worked out which will figure out the costs of the proposal. Currently the proposal is that the ISPs pay 25 per cent of the administration costs (which covers letter-sending fees).

Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT Retail, said: “It’s disappointing that we feel the need to take action but we feel we have no choice. We have to do this for our customers who otherwise run the risk of being treated unfairly.

“Our dispute is not with the current Government but with the previous administration which pushed this through without due process. We need clarity about whether this legislation is compatible with important EU laws.”

Charles Dunstone,chairman of TalkTalk, added: “The Digital Economy Act's measures will cost the UK hundreds of millions and many people believe they are unfair, unwarranted and won't work…Innocent broadband customers will suffer and citizens will have their privacy invaded. We think the previous Government's rushed approach resulted in flawed legislation. That’s why we need a Judicial Review by the High Court as quickly as possible before lots of money is spent on implementation.


Sick Cheryl Tweedy's mum keeps vigil by bed - Exclusive

Cheryl Cole (pic: Splash)

Cheryl Tweedy's mum Joan was at the bedside of the malaria-stricken star yesterday as she vowed to return to X Factor.

The Girls Aloud singer wants to be well for the ITV show's boot camp stage in two weeks after pulling out of auditions at the weekend.

A source said: "She may be OK by then and that's her main focus. But everyone will have to wait and see. It's one day at a time for now."

Cheryl, 27, has been transferred to a specialist tropical diseases ward at University College London Hospital in Central London as she battles the potentially fatal illness.

Mum Joan Callaghan, 50, arrived yesterday at around 8.30am looking exhausted.

Cheryl is believed to have caught malaria while on holiday in Tanzania with boyfriend Derek Hough, 25, and collapsed on Saturday.

V Festival organisers said yesterday they still expected her to perform at the two-day event in August.


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